The age of social, political and cultural cartographers is past, so say the Postmodernists. Mapping the terrains of reality, plunging to ontological depths can be left to those who want to cling to comforting fairy tales, either through rhetoric or reason.
Like every ideology or ism, postmodernism has its heroes. But unlike modernism, they are one too many here. Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Deleuze, Guittari and others. It was Jean Francois Lyotard, however, who emerges as a champion of difference and diversity, as well as plurality in all theoretical realms and universalizing theories and methods. His strong disgust and loathing of unity and unifying theories and rejection of the notions of universalizing and foundationalist theory made him a heretic in the world of theoretical intelligentsia. "To see the world in a grain of sand / and heavens in a flower" as William Blake put it was not exactly Lyotard's idea of representing reality. He uses words like "terroristic" and "totalitarian" for his description of unifying theories thereby resolutely championing a plurality of discourses and positions against unifying theories. His theories represent a severe "fracture" from the modern discourses. We begin with a short description of his major works before moving on to his seminal The Post-Modern Condition.
Beginning as a French Marxist, he was radically influenced by Edmund Husserl, while being politically engaged with a group called Socialisme ou Barbarie. When Cornelius Castoriadis, a fellow Marxist, developed a fundamental critique of Marxian theory, which he claimed to fail in describing contemporary conditions, Lyotard split with the group and turned on to theoretical studies, preparing himself for an academic career. He became involved in the May 1968 evenements, which turned him on to seek solace in Dr.Sigmund Freud and The "Superman" of German philosophy, Friedriech Nietzsche.